Read The Story of the Navarrese of Chivalry, free online book, by James Branch Cabell, on ReadCentral.com.

In the year of grace 1386, upon the feast of Saint Bartholomew (thus Nicolas begins), came to the Spanish coast Messire Peyre de Lesnerac, in a war-ship sumptuously furnished and manned by many persons of dignity and wealth, in order suitably to escort the Princess Jehane into Brittany, where she was to marry the Duke of that province.  There were now rejoicings throughout Navarre, in which the Princess took but a nominal part and young Antoine Riczi none at all.

This Antoine Riczi came to Jehane that August twilight in the hedged garden.  “King’s daughter!” he sadly greeted her.  “Duchess of Brittany!  Countess of Rougemont!  Lady of Nantes and of Guerrand! of Rais and of Toufon and Guerche!”

She answered, “No, my dearest, I am that Jehane, whose only title is the Constant Lover.”  And in the green twilight, lit as yet by one low-hanging star alone, their lips and desperate young bodies clung, now, it might be, for the last time.

Presently the girl spoke.  Her soft mouth was lax and tremulous, and her gray eyes were more brilliant than the star yonder.  The boy’s arms were about her, so that neither could be quite unhappy, yet.

“Friend,” said Jehane, “I have no choice.  I must wed with this de Montfort.  I think I shall die presently.  I have prayed God that I may die before they bring me to the dotard’s bed.”

Young Riczi held her now in an embrace more brutal.  “Mine! mine!” he snarled toward the obscuring heavens.

“Yet it may be I must live.  Friend, the man is very old.  Is it wicked to think of that?  For I cannot but think of his great age.”

Then Riczi answered:  “My desires may God forgive me! have clutched like starving persons at that sorry sustenance.  Friend! ah, fair, sweet friend! the man is human and must die, but love, we read, is immortal.  I am wishful to kill myself, Jehane.  But, oh, Jehane! dare you to bid me live?”

“Friend, as you love me, I entreat you to live.  Friend, I crave of the Eternal Father that if I falter in my love for you I may be denied even the one bleak night of ease which Judas knows.”  The girl did not weep; dry-eyed she winged a perfectly sincere prayer toward incorruptible saints.  Riczi was to remember the fact, and through long years of severance.

For even now, as Riczi went away from Jehane, a shrill singing-girl was rehearsing, yonder behind the yew-hedge, the song which she was to sing at Jehane’s bridal feast.

Sang this joculatrix: 

  “When the Morning broke before us
  Came the wayward Three astraying,
  Chattering in babbling chorus,
  (Obloquies of Aether saying),
  Hoidens that, at pegtop playing,
  Flung their Top where yet it whirls
  Through the coil of clouds unstaying,
  For the Fates are captious girls!”

And upon the next day de Lesnerac bore young Jehane from Pampeluna and presently to Saille, where old Jehan the Brave took her to wife.  She lived as a queen, but she was a woman of infrequent laughter.

She had Duke Jehan’s adoration, and his barons’ obeisancy, and his villagers applauded her passage with stentorian shouts.  She passed interminable days amid bright curious arrasses and trod listlessly over pavements strewn with flowers.  She had fiery-hearted jewels, and shimmering purple cloths, and much furniture adroitly carven, and many tapestries of Samarcand and Baldach upon which were embroidered, by brown fingers that time had turned long ago to Asian dust, innumerable asps and deer and phoenixes and dragons and all the motley inhabitants of air and of the thicket; but her memories, too, she had, and for a dreary while she got no comfort because of them.  Then ambition quickened.

Young Antoine Riczi likewise nursed his wound as best he might; but at the end of the second year after Jehane’s wedding his uncle, the Vicomte de Montbrison a gaunt man, with preoccupied and troubled eyes had summoned Antoine into Lyonnois and, after appropriate salutation, had informed the lad that, as the Vicomte’s heir, he was to marry the Demoiselle Gerberge de Nerac upon the ensuing Michaelmas.

“That I may not do,” said Riczi; and since a chronicler that would tempt fortune should never stretch the fabric of his wares too thin (unlike Sir Hengist), I merely tell you these two dwelt together at Montbrison for a decade:  and the Vicomte swore at his nephew and predicted this or that disastrous destination as often as Antoine declined to marry the latest of his uncle’s candidates, in whom the Vicomte was of an astonishing fertility.

In the year of grace 1401 came the belated news that Duke Jehan had closed his final day.  “You will be leaving me!” the Vicomte growled; “now, in my decrepitude, you will be leaving me!  It is abominable, and I shall in all likelihood disinherit you this very night.”

“Yet it is necessary,” Riczi answered; and, filled with no unhallowed joy, he rode for Vannes, in Brittany, where the Duchess-Regent held her court.  Dame Jehane had within that fortnight put aside her mourning.  She sat beneath a green canopy, gold-fringed and powdered with many golden stars, when Riczi came again to her, and the rising saps of spring were exercising their august and formidable influence.  She sat alone, by prearrangement, to one end of the high-ceiled and radiant apartment; midway in the hall her lords and divers ladies were gathered about a saltatrice and a jongleur, who were diverting the courtiers, to the mincing accompaniment of a lute; but Jehane sat apart from these, frail, and splendid with many jewels, and a little sad.

And Antoine Riczi found no power of speech within him at the first.  Silent he stood before her, still as an effigy, while meltingly the jongleur sang.

“Jehane!” said Antoine Riczi, in a while, “have you, then, forgotten, O Jehane?”

The resplendent woman had not moved at all.  It was as though she were some tinted and lavishly adorned statue of barbaric heathenry, and he her postulant; and her large eyes appeared to judge an immeasurable path, beyond him.  Now her lips fluttered somewhat.  “I am the Duchess of Brittany,” she said, in the phantom of a voice.  “I am the Countess of Rougemont.  The Lady of Nantes and of Guerrand! of Rais and of Toufon and Guerche!...  Jehane is dead.”

The man had drawn one audible breath.  “You are that Jehane, whose only title is the Constant Lover!”

“Friend, the world smirches us,” she said half-pleadingly, “I have tasted too deep of wealth and power.  I am drunk with a deadly wine, and ever I thirst I thirst ”

“Jehane, do you remember that May morning in Pampeluna when first I kissed you, and about us sang many birds?  Then as now you wore a gown of green, Jehane.”

“Friend, I have swayed kingdoms since.”

“Jehane, do you remember that August twilight in Pampeluna when last I kissed you?  Then as now you wore a gown of green, Jehane.”

“But I wore no such chain as this about my neck,” the woman answered, and lifted a huge golden collar garnished with emeralds and sapphires and with many pearls.  “Friend, the chain is heavy, yet I lack the will to cast it off.  I lack the will, Antoine.”  And now with a sudden shout of mirth her courtiers applauded the evolutions of the saltatrice.

“King’s daughter!” said Riczi then; “O perilous merchandise! a god came to me and a sword had pierced his breast.  He touched the gold hilt of it and said, ‘Take back your weapon.’  I answered, ’I do not know you.’  ‘I am Youth’ he said; ‘take back your weapon.’”

“It is true,” she responded, “it is lamentably true that after to-night we are as different persons, you and I.”

He said:  “Jehane, do you not love me any longer?  Remember old years and do not break your oath with me, Jehane, since God abhors nothing so much as unfaith.  For your own sake, Jehane, ah, no, not for your sake nor for mine, but for the sake of that blithe Jehane, whom, so you tell me, time has slain!”

Once or twice she blinked, as if dazzled by a light of intolerable splendor, but otherwise she stayed rigid.  “You have dared, messire, to confront me with the golden-hearted, clean-eyed Navarrese that once was I! and I requite.”  The austere woman rose.  “Messire, you swore to me, long since, eternal service.  I claim my right in domnei.  Yonder gray-bearded, the man in black and silver is the Earl of Worcester, the King of England’s ambassador, in common with whom the wealthy dowager of Brittany has signed a certain contract.  Go you, then, with Worcester into England, as my proxy, and in that island, as my proxy, become the wife of the King of England.  Messire, your audience is done.”

Riczi said this:  “Can you hurt me any more, Jehane? no, even in hell they cannot hurt me now.  Yet I, at least, keep faith, and in your face I fling faith like a glove old-fashioned, it may be, but clean, and I will go, Jehane.”

Her heart raged.  “Poor, glorious fool!” she thought; “had you but the wit even now to use me brutally, even now to drag me from this dais !” Instead he went away from her smilingly, treading through the hall with many affable salutations, while the jongleur sang.

Sang the jongleur: 

  “There is a land those hereabout
  Ignore ...  Its gates are barred
  By Titan twins, named Fear and Doubt. 
  These mercifully guard
  That land we seek the land so fair!
  And all the fields thereof,
  Where daffodils flaunt everywhere
  And ouzels chant of love,
  Lest we attain the Middle-Land,
  Whence clouded well-springs rise,
  And vipers from a slimy strand
  Lift glittering cold eyes.

  “Now, the parable all may understand,
  And surely you know the name of the land! 
  Ah, never a guide or ever a chart
  May safely lead you about this land,
  The Land of the Human Heart!”

And the following morning, being duly empowered, Antoine Riczi sailed for England in company with the Earl of Worcester; and upon Saint Richard’s day the next ensuing was, at Eltham, as proxy of Jehane, married in his own person to the bloat King Henry, the fourth of that name to reign.  This king was that same squinting Harry of Derby (called also Henry of Lancaster and Bolingbroke) who stole his cousin’s crown, and about whom I have told you in the preceding story.  First Sire Henry placed the ring on Riczi’s finger, and then spoke Antoine Riczi, very loud and clear: 

“I, Antoine Riczi, in the name of my worshipful lady, Dame Jehane, the daughter of Messire Charles until lately King of Navarre, the Duchess of Brittany and the Countess of Rougemont, do take you, Sire Henry of Lancaster, King of England and in title of France, and Lord of Ireland, to be my husband; and thereto I, Antoine Riczi, in the spirit of my said lady” the speaker paused here to regard the gross hulk of masculinity before him, and then smiled very sadly “in precisely the spirit of my said lady, I plight you my troth.”

Afterward the King made him presents of some rich garments of scarlet trimmed with costly furs, and of four silk belts studded with silver and gold, and with valuable clasps, of which the owner might well be proud, and Riczi returned to Lyonnois.  “Depardieux!” his uncle said; “so you return alone!”

“I return as did Prince Troilus,” said Riczi “to boast to you of liberal entertainment in the tent of Diomede.”

“You are certainly an inveterate fool,” the Vicomte considered after a prolonged appraisal of his face, “since there is always a deal of other pink-and-white flesh as yet unmortgaged Boy with my brother’s eyes!” the Vicomte said, in another voice; “I have heard of the task put upon you:  and I would that I were God to punish as is fitting!  But you are welcome home, my lad.”

So these two abode together at Montbrison for a long time, and in the purlieus of that place hunted and hawked, and made sonnets once in a while, and read aloud from old romances some five days out of the seven.  The verses of Riczi were in the year of grace 1410 made public, not without acclamation; and thereafter the stripling Comte de Charolais, future heir to all Burgundy and a zealous patron of rhyme, was much at Montbrison, and there conceived for Antoine Riczi such admiration as was possible to a very young man only.

In the year of grace 1412 the Vicomte, being then bedridden, died without any disease and of no malady save the inherencies of his age.  “I entreat of you, my nephew,” he said at last, “that always you use as touchstone the brave deed you did at Eltham.  It is necessary for a gentleman to serve his lady according to her commandments, but you performed the most absurd and the most cruel task which any woman ever imposed upon her lover and servitor in domnei.  I laugh at you, and I envy you.”  Thus he died, about Martinmas.

Now was Antoine Riczi a powerful baron, but he got no comfort of his lordship, because that old incendiary, the King of Darkness, daily added fuel to a smouldering sorrow until grief quickened into vaulting flames of wrath and of disgust.

“What now avail my riches?” said the Vicomte.  “How much wealthier was I when I was loved, and was myself an eager lover!  I relish no other pleasures than those of love.  I am Love’s sot, drunk with a deadly wine, poor fool, and ever I thirst.  All my chattels and my acres appear to me to be bright vapors, and the more my dominion and my power increase, the more rancorously does my heart sustain its bitterness over having been robbed of that fair merchandise which is the King of England’s.  To hate her is scant comfort and to despise her none at all, since it follows that I who am unable to forget the wanton am even more to be despised than she.  I will go into England and execute what mischief I may against her.”

The new Vicomte de Montbrison set forth for Paris, first to do homage for his fief, and secondly to be accredited for some plausible mission into England.  But in Paris he got disquieting news.  Jehane’s husband was dead, and her stepson Henry, the fifth monarch of that name to reign in Britain, had invaded France to support preposterous claims which the man advanced to the crown of that latter kingdom; and as the earth is altered by the advent of winter, so was the appearance of France transformed by King Henry’s coming, and everywhere the nobles were stirred up to arms, the castles were closed, the huddled cities were fortified, and on every side arose entrenchments.

Thus through this sudden turn was the new Vicomte, the dreamer and the recluse, caught up by the career of events, as a straw is borne away by a torrent, when the French lords marched with their vassals to Harfleur, where they were soundly drubbed by the King of England; as afterward at Agincourt.

But in the year of grace 1417 there was a breathing space for discredited France, and presently the Vicomte de Montbrison was sent into England, as ambassador.  He got in London a fruitless audience of King Henry, whose demands were such as rendered a renewal of the war inevitable; and afterward got, in the month of April, about the day of Palm Sunday, at the Queen’s dower-palace of Havering-Bower, an interview with Queen Jehane.

[Nicolas unaccountably omits to mention that during the French wars she had ruled England as Regent with signal capacity, although this fact, as you will see more lately, is the pivot of his chronicle.]

A curled pert page took the Vicomte to where she sat alone, by prearrangement, in a chamber with painted walls, profusely lighted by the sun, and made pretence to weave a tapestry.  When the page had gone she rose and cast aside the shuttle, and then with a glad and wordless cry stumbled toward the Vicomte.  “Madame and Queen !” he coldly said.

His judgment found in her a quite ordinary, frightened woman, aging now, but still very handsome in these black and shimmering gold robes; but all his other faculties found her desirable:  and with a contained hatred he had perceived, as if by the terse illumination of a thunderbolt, that he could never love any woman save the woman whom he most despised.

She said:  “I had forgotten.  I had remembered only you, Antoine, and Navarre, and the clean-eyed Navarrese ” Now for a little, Jehane paced the gleaming and sun-drenched apartment as a bright leopardess might tread her cage.  Then she wheeled.  “Friend, I think that God Himself has deigned to avenge you.  All misery my reign has been.  First Hotspur, then prim Worcester harried us.  Came Glyndwyr afterward to prick us with his devils’ horns.  Followed the dreary years that linked me to the rotting corpse which God’s leprosy devoured while the poor furtive thing yet moved, and endured its share in the punishment of Manuel’s poisonous blood.  All misery, Antoine!  And now I live beneath a sword.”

“You have earned no more,” he said.  “You have earned no more, O Jehane! whose only title is the Constant Lover!” He spat it out.

She came uncertainly toward him, as though he had been some not implacable knave with a bludgeon.  “For the King hates me,” she plaintively said, “and I live beneath a sword.  The big, fierce-eyed boy has hated me from the first, for all his lip-courtesy.  And now he lacks the money to pay his troops, and I am the wealthiest person within his realm.  I am a woman and alone in a foreign land.  So I must wait, and wait, and wait, Antoine, till he devises some trumped-up accusation.  Friend, I live as did Saint Damoclus, beneath a sword.  Antoine!” she wailed for now the pride of Queen Jehane was shattered utterly “I am held as a prisoner for all that my chains are of gold.”

“Yet it was not until of late,” he observed, “that you disliked the metal which is the substance of all crowns.”

And now the woman lifted toward him her massive golden necklace, garnished with emeralds and sapphires and with many pearls, and in the sunlight the gems were tawdry things.  “Friend, the chain is heavy, and I lack the power to cast it off.  The Navarrese we know of wore no such perilous fetters.  Ah, you should have mastered me at Vannes.  You could have done so, very easily.  But you only talked oh, Mary pity us! you only talked! and I could find only a servant where I had sore need to find a master.  Let all women pity me!”

But now came many armed soldiers into the apartment.  With spirit Queen Jehane turned to meet them, and you saw that she was of royal blood, for now the pride of many emperors blazed and informed her body as light occupies a lantern.  “At last you come for me, messieurs?”

“Whereas,” the leader of these soldiers read from a parchment “whereas the King’s stepmother, Queen Jehane, is accused by certain persons of an act of witch-craft that with diabolical and subtile methods wrought privily to destroy the King, the said Dame Jehane is by the King committed (all her attendants being removed) to the custody of Sir John Pelham, who will, at the King’s pleasure, confine her within Pevensey Castle, there to be kept under Sir John’s control:  the lands and other properties of the said Dame Jehane being hereby forfeit to the King, whom God preserve!”

“Harry of Monmouth!” said Jehane, “ah, my tall stepson, could I but come to you, very quietly, with a knife !” She shrugged her shoulders, and the gold about her person glittered in the sunlight.  “Witchcraft! ohimè, one never disproves that.  Friend, now are you avenged the more abundantly.”

“Young Riczi is avenged,” the Vicomte said; “and I came hither desiring vengeance.”

She wheeled, a lithe flame (he thought) of splendid fury.  “And in the gutter Jehane dares say what Queen Jehane upon the throne might never say.  Had I reigned all these years as mistress not of England but of Europe, had nations wheedled me in the place of barons, young Riczi had been none the less avenged.  Bah! what do these so-little persons matter?  Take now your petty vengeance! drink deep of it! and know that always within my heart the Navarrese has lived to shame me!  Know that to-day you despise Jehane, the purchased woman! and that Jehane loves you! and that the love of proud Jehane creeps like a beaten cur toward your feet, in the sight of common men! and know that Riczi is avenged, you milliner!”

“Into England I came desiring vengeance Apples of Sodom!  O bitter fruit!” the Vicomte thought; “O fitting harvest of a fool’s assiduous husbandry!”

They took her from him:  and that afternoon, after long meditation, the Vicomte de Montbrison entreated a second private audience of King Henry, and readily obtained it.  “Unhardy is unseely,” the Vicomte said at this interview’s conclusion.  The tale tells that the Vicomte returned to France and within this realm assembled all such lords as the abuses of the Queen-Regent Isabeau had more notoriously dissatisfied.

The Vicomte had upon occasion an invaluable power of speech; and now, so great was the devotion of love’s dupe, so heartily, so hastily, did he design to remove the discomforts of Queen Jehane, that now his eloquence was twin to Belial’s insidious talking when that fiend tempts us to some proud iniquity.

Then presently these lords had sided with King Henry, as did the Vicomte de Montbrison, in open field.  Next, as luck would have it, Jehan Sans-Peur was slain at Montereau; and a little later the new Duke of Burgundy, who loved the Vicomte as he loved no other man, had shifted his coat, forsaking France.  These treacheries brought down the wavering scales of warfare, suddenly, with an aweful clangor; and now in France clean-hearted persons spoke of the Vicomte de Montbrison as they would speak of Ganelon or of Iscariot, and in every market-place was King Henry proclaimed as governor of the realm.

Meantime Queen Jehane had been conveyed to prison and lodged therein.  She had the liberty of a tiny garden, high-walled, and of two scantily furnished chambers.  The brace of hard-featured females whom Pelham had provided for the Queen’s attendance might speak to her of nothing that occurred without the gates of Pevensey, and she saw no other persons save her confessor, a triple-chinned Dominican; had men already lain Jehane within the massive and gilded coffin of a queen the outer world would have made as great a turbulence in her ears.

But in the year of grace 1422, upon the feast of Saint Bartholomew, and about vespers for thus it wonderfully fell out, one of those grim attendants brought to her the first man, save the fat confessor, whom the Queen had seen within five years.  The proud, frail woman looked and what she saw was the inhabitant of all her dreams.

Said Jehane:  “This is ill done.  Time has avenged you.  Be contented with that knowledge, and, for Heaven’s sake, do not endeavor to moralize over the ruin which Heaven has made, and justly made, of Queen Jehane, as I perceive you mean to do.”  She leaned backward in the chair, very coarsely clad in brown, but knowing that her coloring was excellent, that she had miraculously preserved her figure, and that she did not look her real age by a good ten years.  Such reflections beget spiritual comfort even in a prison.

“Friend,” the lean-faced man now said, “I do not come with such intent, as my mission will readily attest, nor to any ruin, as your mirror will attest.  Instead, madame, I come as the emissary of King Henry, now dying at Vincennes, and with letters to the lords and bishops of his council.  Dying, the man restores to you your liberty and your dower-lands, your bed and all your movables, and six gowns of such fashion and such color as you may elect.”

Then with hurried speech he told her of five years’ events:  of how within that period King Henry had conquered France, and had married the French King’s daughter, and had begotten a boy who would presently inherit the united realms of France and England, since in the supreme hour of triumph King Henry had been stricken with a mortal sickness, and now lay dying, or perhaps already dead, at Vincennes; and of how with his penultimate breath the prostrate conqueror had restored to Queen Jehane all properties and all honors which she formerly enjoyed.

“I shall once more be Regent,” the woman said when the Vicomte had made an end; “Antoine, I shall presently be Regent both of France and of England, since Dame Katharine is but a child.”  Jehane stood motionless save for the fine hands that plucked the air.  “Mistress of Europe! absolute mistress, and with an infant ward! now, may God have mercy on my unfriends, for they will soon perceive great need of it!”

“Yet was mercy ever the prerogative of royal persons,” the Vicomte suavely said, “and the Navarrese we know of was both royal and very merciful, O Constant Lover.”

The speech was as a whip-lash.  Abruptly suspicion kindled in her shrewd gray eyes.  “Harry of Monmouth feared neither man nor God.  It needed more than any death-bed repentance to frighten him into restoring my liberty.”  There was a silence.  “You, a Frenchman, come as the emissary of King Henry who has devastated France! are there no English lords, then, left alive of his, army?”

The Vicomte de Montbrison said; “There is at all events no person better fitted to patch up this dishonorable business of your captivity, in which no clean man would care to meddle.”

She appraised this, and said with entire irrelevance:  “The world has smirched you, somehow.  At last you have done something save consider how badly I treated you.  I praise God, Antoine, for it brings you nearer.”

He told her all.  King Henry, it appeared, had dealt with him at Havering in perfect frankness.  The King needed money for his wars in France, and failing the seizure of Jehane’s enormous wealth, had exhausted every resource.  “And France I mean to have,” the King said.  “Now the world knows you enjoy the favor of the Comte de Charolais; so get me an alliance with Burgundy against my imbecile brother of France, and Dame Jehane shall repossess her liberty.  There you have my price.”

“And this price I paid,” the Vicomte sternly said, “for ’Unhardy is unseely,’ Satan whispered, and I knew that Duke Philippe trusted me.  Yea, all Burgundy I marshalled under your stepson’s banner, and for three years I fought beneath his loathed banner, until at Troyes we had trapped and slain the last loyal Frenchman.  And to-day in France my lands are confiscate, and there is not an honest Frenchman but spits upon my name.  All infamy I come to you for this last time, Jehane! as a man already dead I come to you, Jehane, for in France they thirst to murder me, and England has no further need of Montbrison, her blunted and her filthy instrument!”

The woman nodded here.  “You have set my thankless service above your life, above your honor.  I find the rhymester glorious and very vile.”

“All vile,” he answered; “and outworn!  King’s daughter, I swore to you, long since, eternal service.  Of love I freely gave you yonder in Navarre, as yonder at Eltham I crucified my innermost heart for your delectation.  Yet I, at least, keep faith, and in your face I fling faith like a glove outworn, it may be, and God knows, unclean!  Yet I, at least, keep faith!  Lands and wealth have I given, up for you, O king’s daughter, and life itself have I given you, and lifelong service have I given you, and all that I had save honor; and at the last I give you honor, too.  Now let the naked fool depart, Jehane, for he has nothing more to give.”

While the Vicomte de Montbrison spoke thus, she had leaned upon the sill of an open casement.  “Indeed, it had been better,” she said, still with her face averted, and gazing downward at the tree-tops beneath, “it had been far better had we never met.  For this love of ours has proven a tyrannous and evil lord.  I have had everything, and upon each feast of will and sense the world afforded me this love has swept down, like a harpy was it not a harpy you called the bird in that old poem of yours? to rob me of delight.  And you have had nothing, for he has pilfered you of life, giving only dreams in exchange, my poor Antoine, and he has led you at the last to infamy.  We are as God made us, and I may not understand why He permits this despotism.”

Thereafter, somewhere below, a peasant sang as he passed supperward through the green twilight, lit as yet by one low-hanging star alone.

Sang the peasant: 

  “King Jesus hung upon the Cross,
  ‘And have ye sinned?’ quo’ He, . 
  ’Nay, Dysmas, ’tis no honest loss
  When Satan cogs the dice ye toss,
  And thou shall sup with Me,
  Sedebis apud angelos,
  Quia amavisti!’

  “At Heaven’s Gate was Heaven’s Queen,
  ‘And have ye sinned?’ quo’ She,
  ’And would I hold him worth a bean
  That durst not seek, because unclean,
  My cleansing charity?
  Speak thou that wast the Magdalene,
  Quia amavisti!’”

“It may be that in some sort the jingle answers me!” then said Jehane; and she began with an odd breathlessness, “Friend, when King Henry dies and even now he dies shall I not as Regent possess such power as no woman has ever wielded in Europe? can aught prevent this?”

“It is true,” he answered.  “You leave this prison to rule over England again, and over conquered France as well, and naught can prevent it.”

“Unless, friend, I were wedded to a Frenchman.  Then would the stern English lords never permit that I have any finger in the government.”  She came to him with conspicuous deliberation and rested her hands upon his breast.  “Friend, I am weary of these tinsel splendors.  What are this England and this France to me, who crave the real kingdom?”

Her mouth was tremulous and lax, and her gray eyes were more brilliant than the star yonder.  The man’s arms were about her, and of the man’s face I cannot tell you.  “King’s daughter! mistress of half Europe!  I am a beggar, an outcast, as a leper among honorable persons.”

But it was as though he had not spoken.  “Friend, it was for this I have outlived these garish, fevered years, it was this which made me glad when I was a child and laughed without knowing why.  That I might to-day give up this so-great power for love of you, my all-incapable and soiled Antoine, was, as I now know, the end to which the Eternal Father created me.  For, look you,” she pleaded, “to surrender absolute dominion over half Europe is a sacrifice.  Assure me that it is a sacrifice, Antoine!  O glorious fool, delude me into the belief that I surrender much in choosing you!  Nay, I know it is as nothing beside what you have given up for me, but it is all I have it is all I have, Antoine!”

He drew a deep and big-lunged breath that seemed to inform his being with an indomitable vigor; and grief and doubtfulness went quite away from him.  “Love leads us,” he said, “and through the sunlight of the world Love leads us, and through the filth of it Love leads us, but always in the end, if we but follow without swerving, Love leads upward.  Yet, O God upon the Cross!  Thou that in the article of death didst pardon Dysmas! as what maimed warriors of life, as what bemired travellers in muddied byways, must we presently come to Thee!”

“Ah, but we will come hand in hand,” she answered; “and He will comprehend.”